Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

EU foreign policy chief tours Gaza

Posted by claudiacampli su 28 febbraio, 2009

IHT

By Taghreed El-Khodary and Isabel Kershner

Published: February 27, 2009

CAIRO: Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, toured the war-torn Gaza Strip on Friday – the highest-ranking European official to visit the territory since it was overrun by Hamas militants nearly two years ago.

Solana’s visit to Gaza was a sign of increasing international engagement in the long-isolated Palestinian enclave.

His tour comes amid a flurry of talks on an Israel-Hamas truce, reconciliation between Palestinian factions and donations for Gaza’s reconstruction after Israel’s devastating offensive.

That offensive, which ended Jan. 18, was aimed at halting near-daily rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns, but fire has persisted since the fighting stopped in the absence of a long-term truce deal. Militants launched one rocket that exploded near an Israeli communal farm Friday morning, causing no injuries, the Israeli military said.

Solana was not slated to meet with representatives of Hamas, boycotted internationally as a terrorist group.

“I came to express solidarity with the people of Gaza and to tell them that we will be helping them in the reconstruction process,” Solana said, standing at the ruins of the American International School of Gaza, destroyed by Israeli bombs during the offensive.

An international conference on Gaza’s reconstruction is set to begin Monday in Cairo. Solana said the EU hoped to “get the money that will be necessary to reconstruct the destruction that has taken place in this period of time.”

The Palestinians hope to raise $2.8 billion at the conference. The United States is expected to pledge $900 million.

On Friday, the EU’s executive office said it would give $556 million in aid to the Palestinians in 2009, including support for rebuilding Gaza. It said the pledge was to be made at the conference on Monday. It was not clear how much of that sum would be spent in Gaza.

Solana’s visit is part of an increase in the number of high-profile foreign dignitaries coming to Gaza since the offensive. Senator John Kerry visited last week, the highest-level visit by a U.S. official since the Hamas takeover in June 2007. Norway’s foreign minister was also in Gaza on Friday.

The visits could indicate a greater willingness on the part of the international community to become involved in Gaza, which has been largely isolated since Hamas came to power.

Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, is boycotted by Israel, the United States and the EU as a terrorist organization. The international community has demanded that Hamas recognize Israel and renounce violence, conditions it has refused. But while that remains official policy, there have been calls to engage with the group anyway.

The reconstruction conference comes alongside talks that could produce important shifts in the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and among the Palestinians themselves.

Israel and Hamas are holding talks through Egyptian mediation meant to produce a long-term truce in Gaza. Hamas wants Israel to open Gaza’s blockaded border crossings, a step Israel says it will not take until Hamas returns Sergeant Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier it has held since June 2006.

At the same time, Hamas is holding talks with its rivals from Fatah aimed at ending the violent spat between them, which culminated in Hamas’s rout of Fatah and takeover of Gaza. The goal is to forge a power-sharing agreement that will end the split, which threatens to derail the Palestinians’ goal of achieving an independent state.

The U.S. Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, is in Israel holding meetings with top leaders.

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